Things we think of while riding down the road

Archive for March, 2010

Race Day delay

So that means that I have time to pass on a few notes to you. We’re out here at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California for the first of the West Coast rounds of AMA Pro Racing. Yesterday, Friday, was a truly beautiful Southern California day.All the teams are here, the garages are humming and the track is alive with sound of motorcycles but, we’re here to work. Interviews to do, photo’s to take and stories to write, who has time for watching practice and qualifying?

Our day was full right from the moment we got here, following up on past interviews, scheduling new ones and figuring how we were going to work it all in. Work,work,work…

We started the morning with our friends at Roadracing World Magazine, lining up our interview with MotoGP and Superbike star John Hopkins.

Next was over to Jordan Suzuki for a visit with Rich Alexander, technical manager and former champion road racer himself about running the Michael Jordan team.A quick hello with Aaron Yates, which who, later in the day set the fastest lap times in qualifying.

Time to sit down with John Hopkins for an interview that I have been looking forward to for a long time. We had a great visit about his life and career.

Wandering around the pits a month or so ago during Superbike testing, I met Danny Eslick, 2009 Daytona Sportbike champion. This young man always had a smile on his face and was usually laughing, and in general having a great time. We didn’t get a chance for a full interview so we planned for this race. We met up at the Geico Powersports trailer and for the next thirty minutes or so we had one of the most entertaining interviews we’ve done.

At 3PM the first round of qualifying got underway and from there until the end of the day, no more interviews so we really did get to watch. It’s always fun to watch the racers we have interviewed, you get to know and like them so naturally we cheer for them.

After qualifying we met up with Ducati Superbike pilot Larry Pegram for an interview. Now, Larry is a really cool guy and a great racer, but…he’s not much of a talker. We like him anyway.

We finished off our day in great style, a half hour with sixteen year old Elena Meyers, super fast, super nice and cute as can be. Oh, she had the wildest toenail polish I think I’ve ever seen.

At the end of the day we had a recorder full of interviews and a camera full of photos, a great day.

That was yesterday. Today the wind is howling, blowing so hard that all track activity is stopped for riders’ safety. It’s hard just walking around much less riding a motorcycle at over 165 miles per hour today. So, a couple more interviews, edit photo’s and update you all.

Our first get together this morning was with young Chris Clark riding a Yamaha R1 Superbike for the Pat Clark Motorsports, a Yamaha satellite team. Another very talented and entertaining young man.

To give you an idea of how hard the wind is blowing, while we were doing the last interview,the giant team hauler was rocking side to side to the point of making almost all of us seasick!

So here it is 1:30 in the afternoon, the wind is still howling, riders are huddled up in their motorhomes and we’re hiding in the media center. If no racing soon, we’ll be back tomorrow.

2:30 pm update..the wind has calmed down a bit, the AMA is sending the Superbike riders out onto the track for an evaluation of the safety concerns..if the riders feel they have raceable conditions…thirty minutes from now the green flag drops.


A strange marriage?

A while back, we here at Motoworld Central reported on our podcast the news that Volkswagen had bought a good portion of Suzuki. At the time it was a bit of a surprise, but global companies swap dancing partners all the time. For one day it was big news in the automotive world, but today…not so much. Suzuki wanted a bigger part of the world market and VW wanted a a stronger place in the Asian market…so getting into bed with each other seemed the right thing to do. A few of us (not me of course…) have woken up in the morning wondering “what was I thinking?”

While scouring the internet the other day I found the offspring of this marriage.This photo is proof positive that some mergers really do work well and the future of motorcycling is in good hands.


Dealing with traffic

Recently I wrote about a freeway sign that our friends at Cal Trans, the California Highway Dept. put up then followed it up with a commentary regarding response to the sign from the general public. I have gotten comments from friends and readers about the signs and questioning are they really helpful.

My belief is that the signs are of value, but as we motorcyclists know, a sign on the freeway is only a start in building awareness. We need to take things into our own hands to truly get the car driving public to pay attention to us. Do we follow the “Loud Pipes Save Lives” credo? NO. Do we wear bright orange ‘safety vests’? No self respecting motorcyclist would do that unless forced to by your job (government jobs come to mind). Do we write blogs about motorcyclists rights? Yes, but I think I found a better way to deal with Southern California traffic…get out of my way!!!


Under appreciated motorcycles

Over the years of interviewing racers and travelers, authors and magazine editors, and everyday riders I often ask about their first motorcycle or a memorable bike from their past. The answer usually comes with an interesting story, and stories I love. The other day I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mitch Boehm, publisher of Moto Retro Illustrated magazine talking about his motorcycling life.

As with all good motorcyclist’s meeting for the first time, the first stop is the garage. A couple of motocross bikes, a newly acquired early eighties Kawasaki GPZ750, a beautiful 1970 Honda CB750 and a ‘getting ready to head for restoration’ Suzuki GS1000S. While in the garage talking about motorcycles, and skateboards (yes, Mr. Boehm is a skateboarder, it’s amazing the trouble your kid’s can get you into…) I discovered that Mitch has developed a passion for the GS1000S. After our visit, I got on my old BMW and rode down to visit my kids, and grand kid, in San Diego. During the next two hours of droning along the freeway, thinking about Mitch and his magazine, my mind wandered a bit, kind of like that Dodge minivan in the lane next to me, to motorcycles that not too many people have a passion for…the under appreciated motorcycle.

There are iconic motorcycles that every motorcyclist knows of, has owned or lusted after; and there are motorcycles that riders wish they had never bought. Motorcycle manufacturers are really no different than us…they have motorcycles that they know are legends, or going to be legends and some, they sat back scratching their heads saying to themselves, “what were we thinking?” And then…there are some motorcycles that are really wonderful rides that just went, shall we say, under appreciated. While riding, I started thinking about motorcycles that are really good but for one reason or another just didn’t strike the motorcycle buying public’s fancy. From Laguna Niguel to San Diego one bike seemed to crop in my thoughts over and over…The Suzuki RF900.

The Suzuki RF900 had a 5 year life span, 1994 through 1999. It was a ‘Sport Tourer’ with a little more ‘Sport’ than ‘Tour’. It wasn’t the most svelte motorcycle for the time at around 450 pounds but it also wasn’t the heaviest in it’s class. The RF had good handling, solid and stable…necessary for a sport tourer, a strong bulletproof motor and had to be comfortable to ride all day. All those characteristics the Suzuki had in spades. The motor was based on Suzuki’s GSX1100R, the oil cooled workhorse that you couldn’t kill if you tried. The 937cc engine put out about 125 horsepower, would easily see the other side of 150 miles per hour and could haul (and I do mean ‘haul‘) two of you with all your luggage across the country without breaking a sweat. All in all a great motorcycle I think, so why does it fall into the class of under appreciated?

We motorcyclists can a fickle bunch. If you’re a sport rider it’s light weight and ton’s of horsepower. If you’re a touring rider, you want comfy and loads of carrying capacity…”what do you mean this thing doesn’t have a cup holder and how do I work the CD changer?” Then there is styling and ‘WOW’ factor. Unfortunately Suzuki dropped the ball in both cases with the RF900.

Do you like the look of the Ferrari Testa Rosa? Well then you probably like the look of the ‘fish gills’ on the RF’s fairing. The RF wasn’t as sleek as the Honda VFR, (it’s primary rival at the time) as a matter of fact, it looked a bit porky by comparison. The bike handled well, not sportbike ‘flickable’ but still good enough for ninety percent of us out there. The RF got added suspension adjustment upgrades as time went along that helped add to the ‘sport’ in sport tourer.

And then there is the motor. What’s wrong with the motor you ask…nothing. What’s special about the motor you ask…nothing. And there my friends is the beauty of the RF900…it simply works and works well.

When the bike was new it cost just a bit more than a 600cc sportbike and a lot less than a 1000cc sportbike. Today a good used Suzuki RF900 is a great value for the rider that wants a bike that you can take for a Sunday ride on your local twisty road, Monday take you to work and when vacation time comes around, across the country. In my view, if you are one of those riders I just described, looking for and finding a Suzuki RF900 will be very rewarding. And you probably won’t see one at every Sunday morning bike hangout.